Olympic Preparation Begins with Salute to the Troops

On Saturday morning, half of the U.S. Women’s Senior National Team and coaching staff came together to hold a ‘Hoops for Troops’ Girls Basketball Clinic at the D.C. Armory in front of the crowd of over 3,000 members of the military and their families.

The clinic featured four stations of instruction – a layup clinic run by Maya Moore and U.S. head coach Geno Auriemma, a ballhandling station with Seimone Augustus, a perimeter moves station run by Lindsay Whalen and Candace Parker and a passing clinic run by Angel McCoughtry.

“Do you know what that is?” a mic’d up Auriemma called out to McCoughtry, the WNBA’s scoring leader. “Do you know what a pass is?” he said with a laugh. “Angel wouldn’t even pass you the ketchup at lunch time. She’d say, I don’t get paid to pass, I get paid to shoot.”

The jokes drew laughter from the crowd and set the tone for a day of fun with the military kids. Well, except maybe for Parker, who was putting in some serious instruction on her station, showing the kids proper technique on a catch-pivot-drive move from the elbow of the key.

With kids ranging in age and skill level, the Olympic coaches offered a perfect mix of instruction and encouragement.

“We’re going to start with layups, because you can’t shoot threes until you can make a layup,” said Moore, who along with Parker and Auriemma, also wore a mic. “I don’t care how ugly it looks, we’re going to use the left hand.”

After the kids shuffled through the four stations, the day concluded with a shooting contest and a final huddle up and 1-2-3 … USA! chant to end the festivities. The players stuck around for the men’s practice session, taking time to sign autographs, pose for photos and speak with the media in attendance.

“It’s the least we can do,” said Parker after the event. “For everything the military does for us, it’s easy for us to come out here and do this clinic for the kids.”

In addition to joining the Washington Wizards emcee, mascot and dancers in throwing autographed shirts and shoes into the crowd during timeouts of the men’s scrimmage, the women also participated in a special event to close the day.

A line of soldiers in full fatigues lined up on one side of half court with the men’s and women’s players on the other. The soldiers presented the players with a flag patch off of their uniform along with a coin to take with them to London.

The festival ended with men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski once again thanking the troops for their service and a promise that the men’s and women’s teams would do their best to honor them in London and bring back the gold.

It was pretty special,” said Swin Cash, who arrived in the final minutes of the clinic after playing for the Sky last night and having a delayed flight. “That’s rare that you get that. That someone takes something off that means so much to them and present it to you to take with you as a sign of hope and tradition. We respect it a lot.”

“That was awesome. I didn’t know that was going to happen so that was kind of a surprise,” said Moore. “It means a lot coming from the men and women that are serving. It helps up put things in perspective and gives us a little extra motivation. I’m definitely going to remember this.”